Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

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Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

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September 24, 2020
Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

37
MIN
/
September 24, 2020
About the Episode
There’s a no-code revolution happening that is empowering employees with creative tools that take zero technical knowledge or coding skills to use. What should you know about these tools, and how can they help you? Tara Reed, CEO and founder of Apps Without Code, is here to explain. Tara shares her story of getting into the no-code app space and how this technology enables anyone to reach their goals.
Episode Highlights

Enable your team
Adding no-code tools to your tech stack will allow your team to create their own solutions. 


Be passionate
Aligning your work with what you’re passionate about makes work more enjoyable. 


Continue to innovate
Innovation should be a consistent part of your work to ensure you’re always moving forward.

Meet our Guest

Tara Reed is an inspiring tech leader with experience running marketing initiatives at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft. As the CEO and founder of the million-dollar tech startup Apps Without Code, Tara spends her time developing entrepreneurs through coaching and teaching about no-code software. Her tenacity, drive, and fail-fast outlook has propelled her forward throughout her career. She’s passionate about innovation and business and has launched two successful businesses before the age of 40.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Podcast

Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


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Tara Reed: The No-Code Tech Revolution

Tara Reed, CEO of Apps Without Code, shares her story of getting into no-code apps and how this technology enables anyone to reach their goals.
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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


Collecting payments with online forms is easy, but first, you have to choose the right payment gateway. Browse the providers in our gateway credit card processing comparison chart to find the best option for your business. Then sign up for Formstack Forms, customize your payment forms, and start collecting profits in minutes.

Online Payment Gateway Comparison Chart

NOTE: These amounts reflect the monthly subscription for the payment provider. Formstack does not charge a fee to integrate with any of our payment partners.

FEATURES
Authorize.Net
Bambora
Chargify
First Data
PayPal
PayPal Pro
PayPal Payflow
Stripe
WePay
ProPay
Monthly Fees
$25
$25
$149+
Contact First Data
$0
$25
$0-$25
$0
$0
$4
Transaction Fees
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
N/A
Contact First Data
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
10¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.9% + 30¢
$2.6% + 30¢
Countries
5
8
Based on payment gateway
50+
203
3
4
25
USA
USA
Currencies
11
2
23
140
25
23
25
135+
1
1
Card Types
6
13
Based on payment gateway
5
9
9
5
6
4
4
Limits
None
None
Based on payment gateway
None
$10,000
None
None
None
None
$500 per transaction
Form Payments
Recurring Billing
Mobile Payments
PSD2 Compliant

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT 

Chris Byers: Welcome to Ripple Effect, I'm Chris Byers of Formstack. Tara Reed, tech entrepreneur and TedX speaker joins us on the show today to discuss building technology without writing one line of code. Let's jump in with Terra as she shares her experience and knowledge to help others launch great ideas without having to have a computer science or coding background. Tara, welcome to the show. 


Tara Reed: Thank you so much for having me. 


Chris Byers: Well, before we go deeper on the topic, can you give us your elevator pitch of Apps Without Code? We'd love to hear it. 


Tara Reed: Apps Without Code is an online school. We teach people how to build their own app business without knowing how to write any code. And I specifically say app business because we teach people about creating the app and how to actually build it, but also about how to create a business that actually generates revenue around that. 


Chris Byers: I love that. You've just inspired me, we're seconds in, and part of it is I just love that idea of actually almost allowing people to ideate without the kind of constriction, the guardrails of thinking, oh, I've got to go build this the moment I'm done with it. Yeah, I think you get some really interesting creativity there. What inspired you to launch the organization? 


Tara Reed: So I launched Apps Without Code somewhat on accident. It was unintentional. In 2014 I was working at Microsoft and I had come up with an idea for a product in an app that I wanted to create. I was moonlighting, I was working on evenings and weekends, and I had this idea where I wanted to help people find artwork, affordable artwork for their homes, painting and photography, etc. And so ultimately, the company is called Kollecto, we built an algorithm that matched people to artwork based on their taste. But when I first started, I had to figure out how to get this going, how to create something for people, how to create value for people, how to help them find artwork without code. 


I didn't know how to code myself. I didn't have twenty thousand dollars to hire a developer to build it for me. I didn't have a couple years to learn how to code before I even could get going launching it. And I also was having trouble finding the right tech savvy business partner to help me. Like, I didn't really know who I could trust and who I wanted to work with. And so I decided, I'm not going to be stuck by any of these things. I refuse to be stuck. And so I started teaching myself how to create this product experience that I wanted to have with just the tools and resources that I already had, the knowledge I already had. And so the first thing that I did was I took a survey and like as a lot of your listeners know, like surveys often will have show hide logic. 


So, for example, if there's a question in the survey and it says, what's your favorite color? And you choose purple, right, from a multiple choice, there may be a follow up question that says, "Great! Why do you love purple?" Right. So it's referencing the fact that you said purple above in your answer and what it's doing if it's showing the purple question. But hiding the blue question. The blue follow up question. And so what I did was I used that technology to create this algorithm. Simple version of an algorithm early on to show people artwork. So it would if people said they liked paintings, it would show the paintings and hide everything else. Or if they liked abstract expressionist paintings, it would show the abstract expressionist paintings and hide everything else. Or they had a budget of five hundred dollars and below would show it was in their budget and hide everything else. 


So everyone got to have their own personalized art recommendations and people would message me and say, oh my gosh, your app is so cool. And little did they know I was just using a survey tool, a form builder and survey tool to give people their art recommendations. And that was the first version of the product that I had built just in like a few weeks. And we ended up making our first thirty five thousand dollars with that version of the product from that form that we had used. And then also got a one hundred thousand dollar investment from five hundred startups with that same product. 


Chris Byers: That is just first, just a really cool story to hear, because as a company what we're always trying to do is produce software that non-technical users can use. That's exactly what you just described like that is a powerful feeling to to be able to take an idea and be able to put it into the world without actually writing code. Yeah, I love how you went about that. And I think the you know, I love the principle of refusing to fail. I think, so often in our lives, if we finally assign something to failure, often it has to do with I accepted failure. Basically at that moment of refusal is that place where we really get innovative and really say, you know what, I'm going to try one more time and try a little bit harder. I'm going to get more creative. And so that's a wonderful principle to live by. 


Tara Reed: Yeah, I get to coach a lot of entrepreneurs now who are on their own journey, mainly non technical. And the biggest thing I see people get stuck with is just the like, "I don't know what to do next. I don't know what comes next." And then they freeze in the not knowing. But there's a good muscle to build as an entrepreneur, which kind of goes like this. It's like, OK, what will you ever face with. I don't know. The next question to ask yourself is, what are the multiple choice options? Like, how could this go? What could I do? OK, well, let's say you have an idea for creating some sort of product. It's like, OK, well, I could do a manual version and like, turn it into a service and start with the manual version. Or I could go and research what tools are available out there. 


And there's this one tool that I know called Formstack, and I can use it to maybe in an unintended way to do this thing that I have this idea for. So I guess there's three different ways I could go now that I have these three options. Which one do I think might be best if I really don't know? Let me just eeny meeny miny mo and pick one. And if it doesn't work out, I can just go back and turn around and go to the other other options that were on the multiple choice, like developing that as a muscle of laying out what the options are. When you feel like, I don't know, and then just like picking one, that for me has been really helpful. As an entrepreneur, it was like, I have no idea how to build this product. I have no idea how to find someone to help me. But like, maybe I could do this. Let me go try and see. That is a skill has been really helpful when I'm sure you've experienced this. 


Chris Byers: The thing to where at times you are stalled and you're like, what decision do I make? But then on the other side of making that decision, all of a sudden, like these new possibilities open up, you actually closed off some of the other ones. 


Tara Reed: Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Like, one of the things that opened the door for me was that because I was building my product in an unconventional way. I've run two companies this way, my first company Kollecto and then Apps Without Code now, what it opened up the door for me for and this has actually changed a little bit now. It used to be that investors, people who were supporting folks around startups, they were not supportive originally of people being non-technical. So if you didn't know how to code, there was a time where investors were like, sorry, we only invest in companies where the founder codes. Or like, sorry, there's no other options for you for tools to use. That used to be the climate. It no longer is the case. But because I started in that climate, it allowed me to say, OK, well, what do I need to do to build my business in a way that doesn't need investment? 


The first company that I ran, we took some investment, very little. And for my second company, we completely bootstrapped. And so what it has done is it allows me to then look at business models that are not like I sometimes call them, broke too long business models, the like free and maybe we'll charge ninety nine cents here or like free and maybe it's like ten dollars like the smaller business models that that require you to have to have funding like being pressured that way to your point has really been helpful for me because it allowed me to look at business models in a different way and figure out a way for us to build a company that doesn't need investors. Well, that's a nice to have, but that all came from having these constraints of not knowing how to code and people not really being super open minded to that. At the time in 2014 when I was starting. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, safe to say that 2020 has forced a lot of us to rethink our businesses in a lot of ways. I'm curious when you hear the words reimagine work, what comes to mind? 


Tara Reed: So it's funny because we really try at my company Apps Without Code, we're trying to reimagine work all the time. So when we started, we started as a remote company. And so there's no office. And we all live in completely different cities. I don't think there's anyone who lives in the same city on my team, there's 10 of us. And we also have a good piece of the team, maybe 30 percent now outside of the US. And it allows us to hire just the best talent wherever they are. Right. So that's one of the things that as we reimagine work, we're thinking about where are the best people for the team and regardless of where they are, how can they join us and help us grow? Right. That's an example of what I think about when I think reimagine work. We're really thinking about it now. Right. In this climate where we're all digital, where most of us are not going into the office. That's a big piece. Remote working.


Chris Byers: Well it sounds like you have built a pretty diverse team of both geographically and I'm sure in many different ways, backgrounds and things like that, and many of us can get stuck in our like little globes and little worlds and we kind of hire the people that are right around us. Have you thought about kind of expanding that and maybe being intentional about hiring from anywhere? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we do that helps us have a really diverse, geographically diverse team, because we have a team in the US, but also in Mexico and Spain and Brazil. And what we've done to create a team like this is actually posted the job opportunities on special sites that have a tag you can put on the role that says that you are open to remote employees. Right. To hire people remotely. So AngelList is actually one of my favorite sites for this. On AngelList you can post your job opportunity, you can do it for free to post it. And then you can also post if they need to be in a particular location or if it's OK for them to be remote. We end up getting all sorts of really amazing candidates that are from all across the world. And it actually allows us to have a more competitive pool. And so we pick the person who we think is best for the role, completely separate from where they live. The only thing that we take into consideration sometimes is how far away from time zone that person might be. But there's still a lot of folks, for example, like our team in Mexico, our team in Brazil is all on the same time zone as the rest of the U.S. team is. And so it makes it really easy. And we just have the best skill that we find, regardless of where they are.


Chris Byers: As you teach people some of these really new skills and new skills and a lot of ways that they've got kind of very much buried inside of them, it's not even you got to learn something totally new. It's really embracing a lot of the skills and talents and resources you've got around you. What do you think are the changes that you see in an organization when you equip and empower people in this way? 


Tara Reed: Yeah. So it ends up being a retention tool in a lot of ways, right. For a team, because what you're able to do is you're able to empower your team, empower your employees to be innovators, to be thinking about new things. To be really contributing in a different way, like just by having them work on creating something of their own. Your team then feels like they're contributing in a whole new way. Right. So that could be you helping them get the skills, then taking those new skills and actually creating something of value for the company. But for you as a company leader, it then creates an incentive for them to feel like, yes, I'm part of this team, I'm contributing. I think it really does a big thing for morale. Like when I watch people on my team that have said, OK, I had an idea. Not only did I have the idea, but I mocked it up and I created it. And I'd like to put it in front of a small group of customers and see what they think or a small group of internal team members and see what they think. That really fires them up just in terms of their motivation and being on the team. And so I think for that reason, it can be a really good tool. 


Chris Byers: What do you think it's important to have the ability to build apps or any kind of technology without leaning on developers? 


Tara Reed: Well, I think that for most non-technical folks, their ability to abide by no fault of their own, their ability to articulate exactly what they need from a developer is somewhat, there's something that's lost in translation, right? Whether that's the developer not understanding what they meant or they're using the wrong words with the developer. There's almost always a loss in communication there. And I think until you build up the skills to be able to articulate bullet point by bullet point exactly what you need to do in the developer speak, I think that there is this opportunity for you to create the first version and then to get some users using it. And then if you want to take that to a developer and say, OK, here's what's working, here's what's not working. Can you help me expand upon it? But I think this is actually really important for the founder, particularly now that we have tools available to create the first version. 


Chris Byers: You know, you've keyed on something that I see happen over and over and over in my company at Formstack. And that is this, we think we've walked out of a room agreeing on something. It just isn't happening like that. Yet you are often using words and phrases that mean a lot to you. And man, they mean something totally different to the person who's receiving them. And so you get all the way down to the end of a project or something like, wait, this is not what I was going for at all. And, you know, for us, we've actually had to make sure design is a really, really early part of the process, because that's usually where you can kind of, the moment this becomes a visual. It's like, OK, I can see that's not what we were talking about. That's exactly what we were talking about. But I love that you've keyed on it. It's just like a problem everywhere in every organization is the language that we use. 


Tara Reed: Yeah. And so if it can happen in your second everyday meeting, we've all had the experience you just mentioned of saying something in the meeting and someone thinking they understood what you meant. But then it turns out that they didn't. Right. Because we know that that happens. It can happen even more at extreme when you're talking to a developer who kind of speaks a different technical language than you. I get to talk to entrepreneurs all the time who are like, yeah, I've already spent twenty thousand dollars. Fifty thousand dollars. Seventy thousand dollars. And I don't have anything to show for it because there was something that happened between myself and the developer that didn't work out from how I was explaining things to what the expectations were. 


And so I think that now that we have tools, to your point, getting a visual of it is the priority first. But now it takes you the same amount of time, for example, to get out like a pen paper and draw what you want to happen as it does to actually open up Formstack and actually line up what you want to be included in the product, included in the experience, and then send it to some customers. Right. And so because we have tools, you can just as quickly not only just get the visual, but get something that actually works and put it in front of people and then go to someone if you want to. At that point, you get to choose. Right. They want to continue building without code. And there are all sorts of tools that I recommend you can use for building without code. You can decide if you want to continue or if you want to then have someone take it from there and code it from there. But either way, you have two things. You have a visual and you have feedback from actual customers. And hopefully there's money in the bank from them, too. That's the ultimate feedback. 


Chris Byers: Yeah. Well, you know, I actually think you've keyed in on something else, too, as companies are going remote right now. To me, one of the things that they're going to wake up one day and see is that whiteboard meant a lot more to how we get things done than I realized. And as you know, whiteboarding remotely isn't amazing. The technology doesn't work or something about the constructs doesn't work. And so I've actually seen really good success too where people often are like, yeah, let me get some paper out when I draw this and I'm just going to show it up on my camera and not you know, it's not high fidelity, but it does convey the message much, much faster. 


Tara Reed: That's right. That's right. 


Chris Byers: Well, when people talk about apps without code, talk to us about what that means. Dig into that just a little bit more. 


Tara Reed: OK. So there are now new tools that allow you to create apps, products, really complex and sophisticated surveys and forms without writing any code. So the way that that works is you design the app by drag-drop-point-click, just like you would make a PowerPoint presentation. You drag what you want onto the page. Right. And then you logically tell the product what you want to do. It can be an app. It can be a form. Whatever it is, you tell it what to do. In English, not in some other coding language you don't know, but in English, which you already understand. So like an example for an app might be if the user clicks the button, then log them in. And it literally says that in English as opposed to in a coding language. And we all understood that sentence. If you can write that sentence or type it in. Then you can get the app to do what you want it to do. Or if the user answers the question, then skip to question number five as opposed to question number three. Right. So you tell it what to do in English as opposed to some coded language, a drag-drop-point-click to design what you want and then tell it what to do in English. 


There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to do this. Some of my favorites are Bubble. There's a tool that allows you to create your own fully functioning app. Glide is another tool. I always really love using form builders like Formstack to build, create a really early version of a product. That's what I did. Made my first thirty five thousand dollars that way. So those are some of my favorite tools. There's also one more called Mighty Networks that I really like that allows you to create your own social network app. And if folks want more, I can leave with you a list or I can do a workshop where I walk through like all the different tools that are out there. But there are tools that allow you to create your product without any code drag-drop-point-click and then logically tell it what to do in English. 


Chris Byers: You know, I'm sure a lot of people are listening to what you're saying right now and saying I can really use that in my company and teams. What do companies need to be considering so they can help employees build and launch their own ideas? 


Tara Reed: Before I was an entrepreneur, I worked at Google, Foursquare, and Microsoft and I worked as a marketer. And so we always had the issue where the marketing department always needed things to be built by the development team. Development team was like, we're working on other things. They were getting all of these influx of requests. And so it was always like a point of a challenge for us because we needed to get in-house tools built. We had to get things created. And we had to end up being innovative in that way. We had to end up sort of creating our own dashboards and creating our own kind of in-house tool or sometimes external tools for users to use, but primarily internal tools. And so I think that there is a whole opportunity for companies to present this. If you are on a team and you also have this challenge of needing things to be created and built to present this to your team, your manager, and say, hey, I just want to show you there's these no-code tools that are out there where we can actually, as our team, create this thing as opposed to waiting on development resources inside of the team to build it for us. We actually can get it up and running and maybe we can get the first version going first and then pass it on to another team.


I think my earliest experience of doing this was when I worked at Google. This is before I was doing a lot of this like no-code stuff. I wasn't even calling it that at the time. But I was doing a lot of like creating of dashboards and like creating really fancy, like Excel experiences and dashboards and then using them internally for the team. And then once they were working, once people were loving it, then I would pass it over to our development team resources, our operations team, and have them create like a fancier version of what I had built. But really taking this mindset of let me create the first version inside of the company first, get it so that it's a useful tool for everyone. And then we escalate it and get resources to polish it up. 


Chris Byers: Well dig into that moment you just kind of referred to where you kind of discovered you could build an app on your own and tell us more about that beginning story. 


Tara Reed: So then the very beginning. So I can kind of look back and trace different examples of me doing this. The very beginning example that I was thinking of was when I worked at Google. When I worked at Google, we worked on Google Offers, which no longer exists as a team on Google. But essentially Google had tried to buy Groupon and the deal didn't work out, so they're like we'll build our own internally. And so it was like a Groupon competitor of daily deals. So I built this tool to pull in information about past sales, like the performance of past sales and then also competitor sales. So I had found this site, which was aggregating all of the daily deals that were on different sites, ours and competitors. And I was able to pull it into like an Excel format. And I use Google spreadsheets to be able to pull that information in and then visualize it in different ways. 


So I created my like home, the first tab of the spreadsheet to be completely white. So I took the lines off of the page so that it looked like a dashboard. It looks like a piece of software. And then there were a couple of different widgets on that page. And you could click the dropdown, for example, and choose a market, choose a city, or even choose up to a zip code of where you wanted to run an upcoming daily deal. And it would show you the performance in different verticals. Here's how pizza parlors perform in their coupons. But here is how nail salons perform. And you could see that at a high, at a very detailed level. And then be able to use that to make decisions internally about where we do partnerships with different kinds of organizations moving forward to have deals and coupons on our site. So created that in Excel and took a while to do it. It was like a project I've been working on over time. But I created this really useful dashboard for the team to use to make decisions. And then once I'd gotten buy in and everybody was like, have you seen that tool? Are you using Tara's tool? Then I brought it over to the operations team, into our tech team and said, hey, everybody's loving this. Can you turn this into something more formal we can use across the whole organization? Right. But first, I built it on my computer in-house, internally, and was like, I bet that there's a way that I can do this. I bet there's a way I could figure this out. Let me start, you know, playing around with it to see. 


Chris Byers: Well, you know, funny enough, I think you've flagged up something that if you're younger in your career and you're listening to this conversation, if you will just spend some time learning how to use Excel and some of the deeper features there. Learn how to run a pivot table, learn how to build it, you know, use a V look up. There are some simple tools that if you don't know how to use them, you might perceive you need an engineer to solve a problem. And you can do some pretty powerful stuff. Can you share a successful story of an entrepreneur you've helped get started in Apps Without Code and and get going. 


Tara Reed: One of the entrepreneurs I've worked with, his name is Josh and Josh is based in the Virginia area. And so when I met Josh, he was a music teacher. He had an after school program where students would come and learn music and music production from him. And he also had partnerships with schools. So he would go to schools, particularly schools who had their budgets cut for music and arts programs, and he would sort of operate just like a pop up music department for the schools. And he would travel back and forth to different middle schools to create these music and music production programing for them. And when I met him, he was like, I like doing this, but I can only be at so many schools at one time. And he had this challenge around scaling. And so what he ended up doing, what we worked on together ,was creating an app that allows the schools to have their own virtual music program. So he took all the things that he had been doing in person and created this app where the students log in. The students are able to like complete assignments. They're also able to actually compose songs inside of the app. I want this part of the song to be here and this part of this song to be here. So they can compose songs in the app. Teachers can offer grades and give them like group assignments as a working group. There's a social element to the app too. And then the teachers can provide grades for the assignments. And so he created that app. We worked together on this and then he took it to schools and licensed it to them. Right. So initially when we first met, his idea was that he was going to offer this to parents and maybe do like a five dollar a month, ten dollars a month subscription to parents. And when we talked about it and realized that he could white label it to schools, which means, like, you create the app, you take your logo off. You put their logo on, so they get to take credit for it. Have their branding on it and you can do that for an unlimited number of customers. You can have a lot of customers that you white label for. But if you white label it, he realized he could do five thousand dollar and up contracts for each school. And so he created a whole business around this. And so in the time we worked together, we had twenty three schools that first jumped on and were like, yes, here's our check. We're ready to go. So he's built the whole business around this. 


Chris Byers: So I think so many people are hearing this conversation and saying, wow, this is really interesting to me, I'd love to kind of put this in motion. Who's interested and what are some of the challenges that they might be facing that you'd say, you know, these are the people we can help tremendously? 


Tara Reed: Yeah, absolutely. There's kind of two different buckets of people, actually. The first are people who don't know how to code now, but have an idea for creating some sort of product they want to put out in the world. Those are simple prerequisites. That's it. Right. The other group of people that I often work with, too, though, are people who do know how to code and our seasoned developers. But they know and understand technical debt and they understand that it takes a while to get something built right. And so they'd like to do is get a first version of it quickly in front of people to let them know if this is something they should code or not. So those are like the two groups of people that I think are best for this. Some of the things that they should be thinking about, if they don't already have an idea. The first thing that they should be thinking about is what do I do for work and what is one thing that is hard or time-consuming about what I do for work. So that's the first question I often ask people. I can also ask them that same question around my hobbies. What's your favorite hobby and what's one thing that's hard or time consuming about the hobby? 


And then we go into a conversation about. OK, well, if we created an app to solve that pain point, what might that product look like? Right. So I'll give you an example. Another entrepreneur I've worked with, his name is Carlos. We talked about his hobby. He likes to play basketball. And I asked him, like, what sort of things are hard or time consuming about when you want to go play basketball? And he told me that it's hard to figure out which basketball courts are going to be available for him to go play and which ones are going to be too many people there. And so we brainstormed. What might it look like for you to create a product to solve some of this? And so he said, OK, well, I could create a app that gyms could use and the gym could have people sign up for slots in advance for booking this court. And I could license it to them and have it be their own app. And that's exactly what he did. He had the YMCA come on board as his first customer. 


So you're looking at, what do you do for a hobby? What do you do for work? What's time-consuming andnd hard about that? And creating an idea around that is the first thing. Because then you're creating something that you're already one hundred percent qualified to do. You already know a lot about it. Right. And then the second question is, how do I charge money for this idea? And there are a lot of different ways you can charge money. One of the favorite ones I've already nodded to is white labeling. Right. Where you ask yourself what kinds of companies or organizations would like to have their own version of this product. And then you could white label it to them. So those are some early things I would think about. And then the third question that you then get to is what tool can I use to create this without code? Those are sort of like the three most important questions to be asking when you start. 


Chris Byers: And what do you think when people do get started here and especially if they do it inside of an organization. What are the kind of impact that you think happens by empowering employees and people to do more kind of coding or building without code? 


Tara Reed: Well, you get all of these new lines of revenue potentially, or also just things that you wouldn't have to pay for a whole development of creation. You have lots of innovation that happens internally. Right. Like, if you look at Google as a really good example of this, for so many years, they had this policy where they asked people to spend 20 percent of their time working on some sort of project that ended up being, I think Gmail ended up being one of those products. Right. That somebody just like took some of their time to start working on and creating. So what you can do with this is create that same culture of innovation inside of your company to have people coming up with things you never would have come up with. Coming up with tools to help them do their job better or even products and lines of business for you to sell to to grow your company. 


Chris Byers: And what would you say to somebody who's who's thinking about this, but they just they're kind of stuck where they are? How would you encourage them to get started? 


Tara Reed: I think that goes back to one of the things we talked about at the beginning of this conversation about refusing to be stuck. Right. That is a place that you can't be in. So the next question to ask is like, OK, well, I don't really know where to start. What are the options? Right. I just heard this lady talking on this podcast, like, how do I find her? Or like, what kind of tools do I already know about that I could use in an unintended way? Right. Like for me, I already knew about surveys and no one ever said that you could use a survey to create like a matching system to show people artwork. But it was something that I was like, well, let me try it and see if I can get this to work. So it really is about like opening up a piece of paper and coming up with some multiple choice options of what your next steps could possibly be, and then being bold enough to just circle one of those options and say, I'm going to do this one first. I don't know if it's right, but I'm going to do this one first anyway.


Chris Byers: Yeah, that's that's great. As as we kind of think about wrapping the conversation up, what's your kind of number one piece of advice for embracing simplicity in business processes? 


Tara Reed: So this is a question and a framework that I use for folks that are creating products for themselves. But you can use it for products internally and just modify the framework a little bit. When we're looking at products and we're building new apps for customers and businesses to use. The question is, if you've got a list of features, a list of things that you want to include, the question we always ask is, will anyone pay you any more money to add this? So we literally get on the phone with potential customers and we say, OK, we're thinking about adding this feature. Is that something that you would pay more for in a higher tier or something that like maybe you wouldn't be as interested in. Right. So you can use that same kind of framework, switch it a little bit internally. Right. It's something that you can ask your team, for example, like, hey, if we add this, would you be willing to-- do you have to use something, by the way, that that cost something that someone doesn't to money. But would you be willing to spend your lunch hour, like, helping us talk through this? Or is it something that maybe, like you wouldn't have time for? Right. Take something that's valuable to people, it ciould be time, could be money and use that as a framework. And that's the thing that tells you, like if people really care about it or not. So it could be something internally that you're building and you want to know if people are willing to carve out time to actually help you with it. If you ask it in that framework of a way, you'll know if people are like, oh, I'm not really sure or yes, absolutely. And they're enthusiastic about it. If it's something really valuable to them, you can read people's answers by it, by posing your question and that kind of way to then cross out the things that people are not as interested in. And just focus on the most important things that they are. 


Chris Byers: And tell us, what's your go-to productivity tip is? 


Tara Reed: OK. My go to productivity tip is sort of what I mentioned earlier. It is to identify the one most important thing you need to do today or you need to do this week and only do that, like literally just focus in on that one thing. It's so easy to get so many things come across your desk, but you'll usually find that when you do the most important thing, everything else really falls in place. Or maybe a few other things you can do after that. But once you have the most important thing done and really kind of organizing your day around that. That's been my most helpful productivity tip.


Chris Byers: All right, and last question, how will you be reimagining work moving forward? 


Tara Reed: One of the things that we're really thinking about is how we create fun elements of office culture in a remote world. A lot of people are thinking about this right now. Like, how do you keep some of the really cool things about being in office on Zoom or remotely? And so one of the fun things that we've been doing, we're starting to do on our team are things like movie nights on Zoom with a team and these sorts of fun things, fun extracurricular activities with our team. And so that's one of the things we're thinking about, around reimagining work, is how you create and include this element of friendship you get to have, you know, at the watercooler, but actually having it remotely.


Chris Byers: Again, this was Tara Reid with Apps Without Code. And there's a couple of things I heard from Tara today that I just I hope you hear also. The first one, is if you can pick one thing to focus on this week, if that's all you learn from this conversation, you're going to be more effective in your work this week. You're going to get more success in what you're trying to accomplish. The second thing is start with a visual. You're trying to accomplish something new, big. Scratch it out on paper. It's a great start and it will help be something you can test with other people and help them see. Is this what we're talking about, are we talking about the same thing? Is this what we both want to see succeed? And that one that we started with, which is take an attitude of refusing to fail. If you can start with that attitude, you're gonna find your way to the other side of whatever that barrier is that comes up very quickly because if they come up every day and it'll help you achieve what's next. Thanks again to Tara. It's been a great conversation. I hope you've been just inspired by her knowledge, the way she thinks about things and have taken some great things from the conversation. 


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